Hottest Restaurants in DC Right Now

By Olga Boikess  |  September 17, 2013
Credit: Jody Brady

It’s axiomatic that new restaurant openings slow down in summer, but not this year. Not only did happening venues spring up on 14th Street NW -  already ablaze with hot spots - but the Ninth Street NW corridor in Shaw also caught fire. Heavy hitters arrived in established Penn Quarter and Dupont Circle locales - and even Ballston as well. Check out the roster of what’s hot now.

  • Credit: Jody Brady


    Ambitious chef Frederick de Pue’s sophisticated transformation of Café Atlantico’s Penn Quarter space suggests the sea with subtle, artful touches, while his menu offers beautifully composed, European-influenced dishes. Its ground-floor bar provides a plush backdrop for meet-ups, unusual bar bites like uni toasts and recently inaugurated brunch.

    405 Eighth St. NW; 202-347-7491

  • Credit: Jessica Greene

    Baby Wale

    Locals gravitate to the long bar in chef-owner Tom Powers' lofty, sky-lit American tavern on Ninth Street NW in Shaw, just steps from his high-end Corduroy. Here, Powers offers a this-and-that kind of menu ranging from snacks like a pupusa to a burnished roast chicken for two. (Trend alert: chefs are opening watering holes where they cook whatever catches their fancy.)

    1124 Ninth St. NW; 202-450-3311

  • Bar Charley

    This dark Dupont Circle East basement venue from the El Chucho and Jackie's talents boasts a laid-back vibe, clever cocktails and intriguing, eclectic fare that doesn’t take itself too seriously while providing something for practically any appetite. Drinks range from tiki types to craft productions involving unusual ingredients (cedar wood smoke, tobacco bitters, wasabi syrup), and there’s an outdoor patio perfect for autumn nights. The place just opened, but it's already hosting a bustling scene.

    1825 18th St. NW; 202-627-2163

  • Credit: Lorraine Fitzsimmons

    Casa Luca

    Attractive young strivers congregate at the long marble-topped bar of Fabio Trabocchi’s Downtown Italian osteria. His midpriced, new venue plays for casual conviviality in a handsome, big-windowed setting, with a menu that honors his heritage of the Le Marche region, with family wines and local produce. Check out the family photos on the back wall.

    1099 New York Ave. NW; 202-628-1099

  • Credit: Jody Brady


    Ramen rules on the ground floor in a bustling, minimalist room with eye-catching details (raked plaster walls, stacked tiles) and an open kitchen, while upstairs, Japanese bar culture is celebrated with izakaya fare and an extensive selection of sake, shochu, Japanese whiskey and beer, and modern cocktails. A new brunch menu offers street fare not found elsewhere in DC.

    705 Sixth St. NW; 202-589-1600.

  • Credit: Jody Brady

    Doi Moi

    Vividly flavored Southeast Asian street food paired with an Asian-accented drink scene plays out in über-cool, whitewashed brick and pale-oak modernity at this latest 14th Street NW hot spot from the Proof/Estadio talents. The centerpiece bar accents the food’s strong flavors with unusual cocktails, Asian beers and an extensive wine list. Check out the cellar drinks den, dubbed "2 Birds 1 Stone."

    1800 14th St. NW; 202-733-5131.

  • Credit: Greg Powers

    Del Campo

    There’s quite a Penn Quarter bar scene at this handsome South American concept focused on elegantly rustic grilled fare and wine. Wood smoke (another trend to note) pervades everything from the fruit syrups used in the cocktails to the vegetable sides and steak specialties.

    777 I St. NW; 202-289-7377

  • Credit: Jody Brady


    The foodie radar screen flashed “go” lights when this artisanal Italian from the talents behind 2 Amys, Obelisk and Standard opened on 14th Street NW late last month. Salumi, seafood and small plates crafted from impeccable ingredients, along with Neapolitan-style, wood-oven-baked pizza (the flour for the dough is milled on-site) and well-chosen vino draw serious eaters.

    1541 14th St. NW; 202-232-0920

  • Credit: greg powers

    G Sandwich Shop

    Mike Isabella's sandwich shop - located next to his U Street NW Greek Kapnos - has folks clamoring for his mouth-filling, New Jersey-style counter-served subs during the day, and affordable fixed-price homey Italian meals table-served at night. He takes diners back to his childhood with his Sunday gravy menu.

    2201 14th St. NW; 202-234-5015

  • Credit: Greg Powers


    On happening 14th Street NW, celebrity chef Mike Isabella channels Greece at his rustic modern meze palace, where the dining room wraps around an open kitchen that features whole animals roasting over open flames. Wine-spiked lemonades on tap and cocktails featuring Greek flavors fuel the action. This place is so hot, he’s opening a clone in Arlington next year.

    2201 14th St. NW; 202-234-5000

  • Credit: Facebook

    Le Diplomate

    It seems that everyone wants to visit - and then revisit - this French brasserie, the hottest of all the new dining options on sizzling 14th Street NW. Its movie-set decor is backed by a kitchen that deliciously updates Gallic tradition, while service remains decidedly down-to-earth. Can't get a reservation? Try going early to nab a seat at the bar or outdoor terrace.

    1601 14th St. NW; 202-332-3333.

  • Mussel Bar & Grille

    Chef and restaurateur Robert Weidmaier’s Arlington branch of his successful Belgian-American mussel and beer concept fills a cavernous car dealership space done up in industrial-chic style. Barflies, the lunch bunch, sports fiends and even celebratory diners find a home here.

    800 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington, VA; 703-841-2337

  • Credit: Greg Powers

    Nopa Kitchen & Bar

    Don’t be surprised if the transformation of the former Zola Penn Quarter space into this sophisticated, industrial-chic brasserie wins design awards and kudos for its French-American take on traditional bistro fare. The airy light-filled bar is where you want to be at happy hour.

    800 F St. NW; 202-347-4667

  • Panda Gourmet

    Recent write-ups in the local press have foodies programming their GPS for this hard-to-find Chinese restaurant in a New York Avenue NE corridor motel. Order from the long, intriguing Chinese/English menu, and experience mouth-tingling, mala Sichuan spicing - it’s hot and numbing, but the tastes are complex.

    2700 New York Ave. NE; 202-534-1620.

  • Red Hen

    Bloomingdale earns a spot on the foodie radar screen with this rustic-mod Italian-American that boasts a serious wine and cocktail program. A stone hearth featuring a wood-fired grill is used to flavor everything from meats and vegetables to ricotta and aïoli.

    1822 First St. NW; 202-525-3021

  • Credit: Jody Brady


    This farm-to-table concept in Shaw draws food lovers for its ever-changing menus of well-priced, European-influenced food and drink. The minimalist setting features a fully open kitchen, and upstairs is an especially lovely new roof terrace.

    903 N St. NW; 202-588-5200

  • Credit: Lorraine Fitzsimmons

    Ted’s Bulletin

    A retro-modern vibe pervades 14th Street NW quarters that are twice the size of this American’s Capitol Hill edition. Enter through an old-fashioned revolving door into an art deco scene offering housemade "pop tarts," donuts, burgers, milk shakes (adult and booze-free) and other comforting eats. It's been jam-packed at prime time since it opened in August.

    1818 14th St. NW; 202-265-8337

  • Thally

    A distinctive, warm and welcoming interpretation of the trendy rustic/mod look (exposed brick, reclaimed wood, barn fittings) on Ninth Street NW in Shaw backdrops chef Ron Tanaka’s New American fare. Cider, as well as beer, wine and custom cocktails, are featured.

    1316 Nine St. NW; 202-733-3049